A Gantt chart
is one of the most popular tools used in project management for showcasing various activities and clear objectives displayed against the planned time for their completion, as well as the exact time of their actual duration. Unlike other methods, the Gantt chart uses a visual approach to clearly show upcoming tasks, as well as the time allocated for their development, and the next planned step.
Similar to any other chart, activities are listed on the left side, while the time scale sits at the top. Horizontal bars are used to represent every single task
(with added information such as the person it is assigned to), their exact start date in relation to other tasks, their duration, as well as their projected end date – giving everyone a clear insight into the overall progress. They can also depict interdependencies, tasks that are required to move on.
Most modern charts and management tools use a vertical line showing the exact current time, in relation to all smaller elements, accurately showing the percentage of how complete every task is at a given time.
The first Gantt chart was developed in 1896 by Karol Adamiecki, and it was referred to as a harmonogram. The Gantt chart that is widely known today was devised sometime between 1910 and 1915 by Henry Gantt, whom it was named after. Nowadays, much more elaborate versions of Gantt charts are used, with automatic tracking and other management tools.
The Main Project Management Problems
Naturally, like any other project management tool, the Gantt chart has its flaws, but most of those are connected to human errors. They mostly occur when people use the chart in an inadequate way.
The most commonly suggested disadvantages are related to the work structure – the project must initially be divided into each and every step and substep. Failure to do so properly will create a poor chart, where elements are missing or some milestones are combined where they should be separate.
Bigger projects can also lead to confusing charts. These lose a good chunk of their original functionality, and can become quite difficult to decipher.
All of this can be corrected with a good overall oversight of the workflow, and with clear explanations of how each step should be executed. A good project manager will find a way to use these kinds of charts to their full potential, while avoiding the pitfalls we’ve mentioned here.
Useful Tips to Use Gantt Charts to the Fullest
So, how does one design the perfect Gantt chart? Here, we have prepared a few practical tips for you, to ensure that each and every project is finished in a timely manner, with as little deviation from the original plan as possible.
1. Mark the Start and End Date of the Whole Project
The first and most important step of every project is clearly defining the start and end dates. We do not even need to emphasize the importance of this step, especially here, where that time duration needs to be further divided into elements to create a good workflow.
2. Break a Project into Small and Easy-to-Follow Tasks
In order to create a good Gantt chart, you need to know all the processes involved, from start to finish. Work alongside your co-workers in order to explore all the necessary procedures and start writing them down, even before you start creating the chart itself; start from the most important aspect and slowly go into each and every detail. Think about how to work all of that into the original timeframe and finish it with the amount of human resources you have at your disposal.
3. Group Tasks or Work with Subtasks
The biggest benefit of Gantt charts is that they visually represent the whole project, so you can group various tasks together under specific headings; this will show everyone what needs to be done, and at what time, with a single glance at the chart. You can even create subtasks, which can come in pretty handy when you are working on a big project.
4. Visualize with Different Colours
Visualization can be very effective and is probably one of the biggest advantages of Gantt charts, especially because people tend to perceive things better when they are presented with different colours.
You should use them for different milestones, so that everyone can have a clear picture of what needs to be done and when (make sure you mark related tasks with the same colour). Everyone will also be able to more easily find their task by simply looking for their unique colour.
5. Define Dependencies
Defining dependencies between elements is very important, since they show the importance of each and every step, and how it will influence other elements in the chart. This serves not only as a motivational factor, but also to reduce the chance of errors occurring.
Dependencies are usually presented with an arrow, visually indicating and defining sequence of events, so everyone will know the priority order. That way you minimize the chance of people taking on less important tasks first and neglecting the main ones, ensuring that every project is perfectly streamlined.
What Makes Gantt Charts a Great Solution
Gantt charts are really a great solution to various project management problems, so take a look at the essential reasons why you should use them to improve your project management efforts.
1. You Can See the Bigger Picture
Gantt charts allow you to see the overall scope of every project, since all the activities and tasks are on one single page. You can monitor the progress and see exactly how much time it takes for them to be completed. You can also can get an insight into the workload of your individual team members and know exactly what everyone needs to do, and at what time.
2. You Can Find and Eliminate the Bottlenecks in Your Project Management
Since you can clearly see the dependencies and the responsible parties, you will be able to instantly identify and eliminate any problem that may occur before it’s too late. A Gantt chart basically does all the reporting for you, so you can find the bottlenecks on the chart and handle them effectively. Too many tasks overlapping? Ask for additional help, or reschedule some of the less important sub-tasks.
3. You Can Effectively Allocate Resources
Since a Gantt chart provides you with an overview of your entire project and its schedule, you can know what resources are required for each task, so you will be able to allocate them effectively and eliminate wasted time and money.
4. Transparency in Communication
This type of chart greatly enhances communication among team members, as well as other stakeholders and clients, since everyone can be easily kept in the loop and see what they need to do and how it will affect everyone else’s work, as well as what the current state of the project is.
Gantt charts are truly some of the most effective tools used for project management, helping both managers and staff maintain high levels of organization, but they also serve as a constant reminder of how important each step is, and how the actions of every individual matter. Creating a good flow on a Gantt chart is extremely easy for simple projects, but can be a true art form in more complex ventures, and it will all depend on how much thought is put into it in the first place.